A Gap Year in Malaysia

Why go backpacking in Malaysia?

Malaysia has earned its place as one of the most popular gap year and backpacker destinations in South East Asia. It’s home to brilliant beaches, unspoilt rainforests, a ludicrous amount of wildlife, and bustling cities packed with cultural attractions. Seriously, you want to spend some of your gap year in Malaysia.

In a way there are two Malaysias – one on a peninsula of the Asian mainland and one more than 600 miles away across the South China Sea on the island of Borneo. Malaysia is an exotic melting pot, with indigenous Malay, Chinese, Indian and European influences mixed together in a country that is part shiny modern and industrial and part developing nation.

Things to do in Malaysia

Check out our current top picks


Volunteer Expeditions in Borneo

from £2350

30 days


Beautiful Borneo is one of earth’s last true wildernesses. Over 100,000 species of plants and animals live within its lush...

Animal Care at a Wildlife Park

from £2595

28 days


Care for animals in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park, Borneo's newest attraction and home to many of Sabah's native and threatened...

Orangutan Conservation in Malaysia

from £1999

28 days


Care for orangutangs in the lush surroundings of Malaysia. Learn about animal protection and work closely with these spectacular creatures...

The Great Orangutan Project

from £1280

14 - 28 days


Volunteer at the award-winning Orangutan Volunteer Centre in beautiful Borneo and help protect these increasingly rare, beautiful animals.

South East Asia Highlights

from £1550

44 days

Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand...

From the hustle and bustle of some of South East Asia’s most dynamic and modern cities to tropical rainforests and...

Volunteer with Bears in Borneo

from £1268

14 - 28 days


Volunteer with the smallest (and cutest!) of bears at this inspiring sun bear rehabilitation centre in Borneo. Immerse yourself in...

Malay Explorer & Volunteering

from £875

11 - 22 days


Work with orangutans from 12 days to month - Volunteer at International Animal Rescue's orangutan project, working towards the rehabilitation...

Borneo and the Philippines

from £2488

42 - 70 days

Malaysia, Philippines

A dynamic program which includes venturing deep into the jungle to teach indigenous tribes, exploring Mulu caves, an orangutan safari,...

China to Singapore Group Tour

from £2375

73 days

Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thaila...

Travel like a local and experience the wonders of South East Asia, from the hustel and bustle of its chaotic...

Animal Care Internship in Malaysia

from £1114

14 - 28 days


Learn the life of a zookeeper on our amazing animal care internship in Malaysia. Work with over 1000 animals of...

Latest advice and inspiration for Malaysia

Check out what our writers have been up to in Malaysia


The cities

Phwoar, Kuala Lumpur. Few cities balance futuristic splendour and majesterial history like Malaysia’s capital. The skyline is dominated by the spectacular Petronas Towers, and puncutated by minarets, huge shopping malls, and clubs and bars that seem to never shut. In between there’s sprawling markets, delicious street food stalls, and beautiful parks. Kuala Lumpur encompasses everything travellers love about South East Asia.

Elsewhere there’s Kuching on Borneo, a sophisticated city full of Chinese temples and Indian mosques, all of it close to incredible wildlife, and the lesser known Johor Bahru that’s quickly making a name for itself with its pounding nightlife. There are plenty of options when backpacking in Malaysia.

The scenery

Bloody hell, Borneo. The largest island in Asia is covered in rainforest that houses the endangered Bornean orangutan, one of the most incredible wildlife sights in the world. There are also Asian elephants, Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Bornean clouded leopard, not to mention incredible views and landscapes like Mount Kinabalu.

You can also visit the Cameron Highlands, a temperate range of blue peaks, tea plantations, and roaring waterfalls. It’s the perfect place to escape the heat and trek across dreamy scenery. If you’re in the mood to relax you can head to Pulau Pangkor (‘Beautiful Island’), a quiet former pirate hideout covered in jungle still largely untouched by foreign tourists.

A lot of backpackers do volunteering in Malaysia to have the opportunity to work with animals like the orangutan, and see the incredible scenery while also helping to preserve it.

Malaysia is a great place to travel. It’s got all the amenities you could want, and most things work. But it’s still a lot cheaper than Singapore and there’s enough fascinating traditional culture and wilderness left to keep anyone happy. All-in-all, it’s a amazing gap year destination, so get your planning hat on!

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